Campagnolo Corsa Record components were obviously manufactured for racing use only. That was until Artemio Granzotto who founded Ital Cicli Systems in Zurich Switzerland, had other ideas for the use of Campagnolo race components. Flying in the face of components made exclusively for racing, Ital Cicil Systems re-designed and re-finished classic Cinelli and Campagnolo equipment. Gold and chrome plating or embedding Swarovski crystals into chain rings was part of the Ital Cicli Systems arsenal of turning their jewel like bicycles into clockwork-precision machinery. Founded in a country renowned for exactness, Ital Cicli Systems turned practical racing equipment into collectable masterpieces that would forever make bicycle collectors go all weak at the knees, at the sight of one of these Swiss made bikes.
These “Carriage Market” “ICS” bicycles were collected, looked at, hung on walls, placed in glass cabinets and are forever talked about. Campagnolo equipped ICS bicycles are rarely ridden and potentially riding one means immediately devaluing it’s New Old Stock condition. That’s if an ICS bike of this type could be ridden at all. In the mid 1980’s 18mm to 20mm tyres were all the rage with the professional road racing fraternity, combined with ultra short chain stays. To accommodate this tyre and chain stay combination, seat tubes were heavily indented. An Ital Cicli Systems bike belonging to Ben Smith has such tight clearances, you could never race on this bike. At a pinch, if you actually chose to ride it and show it off, say for a Sunday morning pedal along the edge of the Zürisee, you’d probably damage the paint work and rear tyre.
The story of ICS covers so much territory it needs to be told in chapters. In this post we’ll take a close look at a 1988 ICS bike that was created for an American trade show and has never been ridden. This ICS bike is even more unique when you know that most of the ICS production was made on special order for Ital Cicli Systems customers. The ICS customer bikes, each and every one different, but none bar this one sent to a trade show then spirited away to be fondled and stared at for all eternity. This bike has done the rounds and been looked at so much, that it’s finish on the drive side crank is wearing thin in places, just from being handled and admired.
In part two of the Ital Cicli Sytems story we’ll examine the history and product range of a company that could probably only ever have existed in Zurich Switzerland.
Almost thirty years after it’s creation, at the 2014 Pushies Galore show ‘n shine, Ben Smith’s ICS Corsa Record bike won best road bike in the show. Below is Ben’s story of how he came to own one of these scarce bikes. Some of us only see bikes as an object to be ridden, a workhorse, others see another kind of beauty in bicycles which prevents them from wanting to ride certain machines, this is the story of one of these “certain machines”.
My fascination with ICS bicycles manifested itself way back in about 1998. I was blissfully unaware that there was anything more intriguing or provoking than the top end groupsets from the factories of Mr Campagnolo. My desire at the time infused itself within the gold insignias of the Campagnolo 50th anniversary groupset.
Around the same time I had to make my way to Joe Cosgrove’s mega man cave on a frosty winter morning to talk about a customer’s broken frame. A path worn into the grass in Joe’s back yard took me to Joes domain, a sedate looking shed about the size of a twin car garage and absolutely loaded with machinery, frames, bikes and anything else to do with bicycles that Joe could squeeze in there. Joe and I discussed the frame repair, but all along my eyes were wandering around the periphery, spotting archaic machines and shelved projects left and right. In amongst it all and pride of place sitting in his custom made cabinet was a Campagnolo 50th anniversary groupset, brand new and still in its light blue display case. Joe had hand made a three foot long Campagnolo script sign out of wood and painted it blue and finished it with four coats of lacquer, the whole deal looked like a holy shrine to the Italian Juggernaut.
It wasn’t long (well about an hour, that’s short in Joe’s time) before Joe directed me towards his bookshelf full of manufacturers catalogues. An absolutely amazing collection of trade show memorabilia. Having noticed my intense interest in the Campagnolo 50th anniversary groupset, Joe went straight for the ICS catalogues, “You know there is something rarer than Campagnolo 50th” he says. I looked at the catalogues displaying a bevy of gold and highly polished components. Immediately I was spellbound, never had I seen such indulgent decadence for bikes. Those Ital Cicli Systems components so rare and unique, I imagined this gold jewelled crown of cycling’s artful Swiss craftsmanship, sitting in the sultan of Brunei’s palace and there was no one else in the world so affluent that would have one.
That day set off a subliminal yearning (like Gollum and ‘Precious’) that lay dormant in my mind’s eye for years to come. I have been collecting and restoring 1980’s bikes for a few decades, and in my travels the occasional ICS component would come along. Usually a well worn Super record 3d ICS enhanced derailleur or something like that. About four months ago while I was chugging through another one of those bike blogs about the quirks of old bicycles, a 1988 ICS design show bike appeared out of nowhere in my foggy radar, like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor! It took me totally off guard, and I looked at it over and over. It was for sale!! A seller in North Carolina USA, had advertised it with very sparing detail. Like the classic line from Seinfeld,”the old fools sitting on a mountain of gold” literally! My excitement was palpable as my sweaty paw rattled the mouse all around the photo’s I read “no international shipping”……. the famous sound effect from a game show ‘BA BONG’ rang through my bike collector brain. Unperturbed I immediately went about trying to ‘move the mountain to Mohamed’ as the saying goes I lined up a US address to send it to, through a friend and all looked sweet, after negotiating a good price the seller agreed to part with it. After sending payment, the seller contacted me to inform me he will not send a bike to an address not verified with my payment system….NO WAY. I had some sleepless nights, and finally managed to convince the seller to send to my Aus address. I had to pay him some incentive in extra shipping, but WTF!! How often do you get a chance to procure a new (old stock) unridden 24k gold plated ICS show bike with an iridescent ‘Cromovelato’ Blue gold plate frame?? ‘Never’ comes to mind!
Finally once the ICS machine was firmly in my hands and me being just another bike resto nut, I immediately set about changing some minor things that (to me) didn’t suit the overall makeup of the bike. I replaced a fairly mediocre grey Regina ‘America’ freewheel with a rare Gipiemme Chrono ORO freewheel, changed the standard white Rolls saddle for a more unique ‘perforato’ version and found a period correct ‘Cobra’ gold bottle cage. Tyres were the next issue and the best match were a set of nos Clement Mirage from 1987. Greg Softley (Cyclomondo) helped me with some finishing decals as the original SLX had been mauled. After many years of bike collectors drooling and fondling the gold plated drive crank arm, it’s gold finish has begun to flake, I guess it’s to be expected, but the rest of the bike is in exceptional condition considering its 27 years of display here there and everywhere. Gold plating is never the best material to resist wear and is madness as a coating on a bike should the owner want to ride it. I suspect this is one of the reasons Campagnolo resented the use of their groupsets by ICS. They knew that if anyone used the parts in anger, the finish would simply rub off after a few 100 km’s. ICS was originally snubbed by Campagnolo, mysteriously though (not long after the death of Tulio Campagnolo ), Campag agreed to have their Corsa Record groupset gold plated for Colnago’s 35th year of production! One ponders, who would have been used to gold plate to a standard that is identical to ICS’S Corsa Record finish?? I am guessing there were some bank transfers going from Italy to Switzerland back then. Cinelli on the other hand were in raptures to see their lovely stems emulated by ICS.
ICS didn’t just bling everything up though, as much as it’s a rappers delight, some innovations took place under Artemio Granzotto’s penchant for patents. The hidden seat post clamp was an innovation that works with an internal cam twist that activates the internal post wedge bolt, one easy turn will clamp it in place. The frame itself, built under Granzotto’s strict guidelines has many subtle innovations such as internal cables. Recessed rear wheel position, presumably for aerodynamics has adjustment of the wheel should the rider wish to have more than a micron of tire clearance, up to about 3mm for a 23mm tire. Small stones jammed down there would just ad to the exotic bike experience! Riding to the piazza on your gold bike for your double espresso meant some small sacrifices.
The seller would not elaborate at all about previous history. After some vague information, I suspect its origins lie around a bike shop called ‘Cycles De Oro’ in North Carolina, (so named in the 80’s because ORO looks like two wheels, stands for gold, and is in Greensborough) the suburb of the business. My guess is the bike was organized from Switzerland for a late 80’s US east coast trade show to introduce and showcase ICS in America. Overall one of the nicest bikes I have ever seen, well worth the ordeal! BEN SMITH 2014
I just about needed to wear sun glasses while doing the photo shoot of the ICS show bike, despite it’s years of handling, it’s gold parts shine like no other bike I’ve ever seen. I even gave it a high key background, that was all the rage in the 1980’s, Ben’s ICS bike just didn’t look right in front of anything else! All images by Robert Cobcroft.
SOME OF BEN’S OTHER COLLECTABLE VELO PARTS AND BIKES
Modolo Brakes collected and displayed in their original boxes.
Eddy Merckx Motorola MX Leader Ben’s own bike bought from the E. Merckx bike factory.
A snapshot of an Ital Cicli Systems Design, Zurich, Exclusive Bike.
FRAME ICS Design Columbus SLX, Silva bridge, probably investment cast lugs. Painted in dark blue, the entire frame has been gold plated possibly in Switzerland, then the dark blue paint applied over the top of the gold in true Italian, Cromovelato style. There’s a definite difference between Italian and French gold plated components, and the ICS gold plating. Some Italian components were sent to Lourdes for plating and experienced collectors can apparently spot the difference. It’s not definitely known who manufactured this frame. As bike collector Greg Softley pointed out, it is unimportant just who manufactured the frame because the only function of the ICS frame is to provide a structure to which the artfully worked components can be fitted and thus showcased. Take a close look at the photographs of this dark blue ICS Design Corsa Record bike and you’ll see that there is no fancy lug lining nor in-fill colours to lugs or any other part of the bike. The dark blue frame is there as a backdrop to the shiny gold that surrounds it, yet the frame has it’s own special allure, with it’s sumptuous blue bathed golden finish.
FORK ICS Design Columbus SLX gold plated, internal fork crown.
PAINT Dark Blue over gold plated frame, with exposed gold plating to chain stays, seat stays, forks and head tube (cromovelato).
HANDLEBAR STEM Cinelli Milano 1R special ICS gold plated edition. Just how many of these were made is not known, the 1R was already an Italian bicycle design classic, combine this with exquisite ICS gold plating and this handlebar stem is a rare beast in the playground for bike collectors.
HANDLEBARS Cinelli Criterium 65-40
BAR WRAP Special ICS Design Zurich white stitched leather, finished with gold bands. Anyone familiar with Almarc leather bar wrap will appreciate the fine detailing on the fitting of this white Ital Cicli Systems leather.
FRONT and REAR BRAKE Campagnolo Corsa Record 2nd Gen Delta ICS Gold plated. The Delta face plates have been pantographed and painted out with the ICS design logo, leaving some original Campagnolo natural anodising to compliment the gold finsh.
BRAKE LEVERS Corsa Record Gold plated by Ital Cicli Systems.
BRAKE BLOCKS Campagnolo Corsa Record Delta
FRONT DERAILLEUR Campagnolo Corsa Record Gen 2 1988 Gold Plated ICS
CHAIN CATCHER ICS Design
REAR DERAILLEUR Campagnolo Corsa Record Gen 2 1988 Special ICS gold plating.
JOCKEY WHEELS Grey Campagnolo Corsa Record
DOWN TUBE SHIFT LEVERS Campagnolo Corsa Record, synchro, gold plated by ICS. Another rare item finished to this level of detailing, showing curved gear shift levers for 1988.
CHAIN Gold Rohlhoff SLT 99 24 KARAT
CRANKSET Special ICS design, cut out and re-shaped drive side five arm spider, Campagnolo Corsa Record. Crankset ICS gold plating.
CHAINRINGS Corsa Record
CHAIN RING BOLTS Campagnolo Corsa Record
BOTTOM BRACKET Campagnolo Corsa Record
PEDALS Campagnolo Corsa Record. With Corsa Record Campagnolo designed four new pedal styles. Campagnolo described their new flat toed and curved front, RECORD pedal as “A pedal designed to have the same shape as the shoe: these pedals are particularly appreciated by cyclists who habitually pedal ‘on their toes’.” The second pedal with a more traditional styling was designed “ergonomically for cyclists used to pedalling “round” where the ball of the foot exerts the maximum force of the push”. There was a shorter axle version with “triple bearings” allowing for more lean angle before scraping on the tar, handy for criteriums. In one season from 1986 to 1987 almost the entire pro peloton changed over to clipless pedals. Look, Keywin and eventually Time and Shimano had penetrated the market with clipless pedals. Campagnolo had introduced their very svelte looking clipless SGR-1. An extremely heavy alloy, clipless pedal that was not a contender. These were so heavy I once used one to make a hologram and if you’ve ever made a hologram, you’ll know how steady the subject and actual room that it’s created in, needs to be, the Corsa record clipless pedal was perfect.
TOE STRAPS Campagnolo Corsa Record
TOE CLIPS Campagnolo Corsa Record Strada
FRONT HUB Campagnolo Corsa Record
REAR HUB Campagnolo Corsa Record
HEADSET Corsa Record Campagnolo 1988
FRONT and REAR RIMS ICS Astrotherm Swiss Made
TIRES Clement Mirage Tubular
SADDLE Rolls Selle San Marco
SEAT POST Corsa Record 1988 special ICS design with internal cam, eliminating the need for a seat pin. The hidden seat post clamp was an innovation that works with an internal cam twist that activates the internal post wedge bolt, one easy turn will clamp it in place. You just pop the plastic dust cover off the front of the seat post, then use an alen key to make the adjustment.
FREEWHEEL Gipiemme Crono Sprint Oro 6S 13-21
BOTTLE CAGE Gold alloy Cobra Cage
FRONT and REAR BRAKE CABLES Campagnolo Corsa Record
GEAR CABLES Campagnolo Corsa Record
REAR DERAILLEUR OUTER GEAR CABLE Campagnolo Steel Coil Casing
DECALS ICS Design “Exclusive Bike”, with the help of Greg Softley from Cyclomondo some of the decals were updated in 2014.